‘I do?’ Evanthia asked, picking one of the suitcases up.
‘I can do it,’ Alessandra answered with a smile. ‘Thank you for the offer.’
Evanthia started talking, gesturing wildly.
Not having the faintest idea what the housekeeper was saying or what her gestures meant, Alessandra smiled and nodded politely. Eventually Evanthia bustled off after making gestures Alessandra thought might have indicated food.
As soon as she was alone in her room she set about unpacking, hanging her clothes in the empty dressing room.
A dressing room that would only ever contain feminine clothes.
Silly little Alessandra, she thought, folding into drawers the new underwear she’d brought expecting her husband to remove them.
She could wear bloomers and he would neither know nor care.
At some point in the preceding weeks she’d allowed herself to believe their marriage could be like a small nursery garden that, with some care and attention, might—just might—bloom into something substantial. Something real.
She’d even allowed herself to believe that Christian could be someone in whom she could trust, not only with her baby but with her.
Christian had taken all those little seedlings and ripped them up, a reminder that he’d never wanted the garden in the first place. He’d put her subtly but firmly in her place.
So why had he made love to her on their wedding night? Out of duty? To consummate it and make it legal?
No. He must have made love to her because she was there and he could. She could have been any woman in that bed.
It was her own lack of sexual experience that had failed to recognise it for what it was.
Did he expect them to sleep together again or was that it?
Her cheeks burned just imagining asking that question. The humiliation of his answer would be too much.
But it hurt so much to know that an experience she’d found so special and fulfilling had been all one-sided. Christian had been going through the motions, his tenderness part of those motions.
He probably had sex with all his lovers in the same way. Why did she think she was so special that Casanova Markos would want to share a bed with her more than once? She’d shared two nights with him; she should feel special. She’d had a one hundred per cent higher success rate than his other women.
She rubbed her itchy eyes and chided herself. Christian wasn’t doing anything they hadn’t previously agreed. She had to accept things as they were, not as she now wished they could be.
Their marriage would be like the green land surrounding the villa. Flat and one-dimensional and not a single different colour in sight.
* * *
Alessandra hovered the photo over the place on screen until she was happy with the position then clicked to release it. She stared for an age, trying to think of a witty caption to go with it. Inspiration struck. She typed it in, clicking the save button at the exact moment Christian stepped into the hidden library.
She’d heard movements, had assumed it was members of the household staff.
She hadn’t for a minute thought it was her husband actually returning home at what would be regarded by a normal person as a decent time.
How she wished her pulses didn’t race at the mere sight of him.
‘What are you doing?’ he asked, leaning against the oak desk she’d appropriated for her purpose.
‘A wedding montage.’ She made sure to keep her tone neutral. ‘I’m making what is basically an electronic magazine with pictures of all the people who were there to share our happy day.’ How she stopped her tongue curdling over ‘happy day’ she didn’t know. ‘When it’s done I’ll email it to all of them as a keepsake.’ She would also print and frame a copy and hang it beside her bed where it could be a daily reminder that her life with Christian was a sham, a marriage for appearances.
It felt good to have something to occupy her. Since their wedding three weeks ago, they’d travelled to Milan together for a few days so she could do her prearranged shoot and meet her obstetrician, flown on to Hong Kong where they’d stayed in his penthouse apartment—in separate rooms—for a week then travelled to London for a day’s shoot. They’d been back in Athens ever since.